This week, Chicago's Hyatt Rosemont hosted the 2010 North American Bed Bug Summit, a two-day conference that brought together entomologists, pest-control gurus, government officials, and other experts on America's growing bedbug menace. More than 360 people paid the $450 admission fee to trade tips, attend lectures, and debut inventive new ways to combat the newly ascendant pest, which has been invading homes and businesses at an alarming rate. Here's a brief guide to what went down: (Watch an AP report about the bedbug summit)
What were the summit's main attractions?
The conference featured a mix of salesman "wearing 'Bug Reaper' and 'Technicide' hats" to hawk bedbug-killing devices; scientists explaining the intricacies of infestations; and assorted experts leading "standing-room-only seminars" with titles like "Group Homes — Unique Challenges in Transient Settings." Exterminators from across the land argued over how best to combat the pests, with "chemical solutions versus heat" emerging as a common topic of debate.
What do experts consider the biggest extermination challenge?
"You got a popcorn ceiling? You’re dead,” said Kristine Effaldana, as quoted in The New York Times, referring to the sort of sprayed-on, textured ceiling that was popular in the 60s and 70s and can serve as a bedbug breeding ground. Effaldana specializes in dogs trained to sniff out the critters.
Any novel new ways to stamp out the pests?
While it seemed unlikely that anyone would break new scientific ground — the CEO of Bedbugs Central said that "nobody knows" why bedbugs are so prevalent in the first place — creative extermination solutions abounded. Many of the products on offer used high temperatures as a way to eradicate the bug; there was a mini "oven" meant for use inside a suitcase, and Heat Assault 500X, a 6,000 pound "towable heating unit" that pumps propylene glycol into infested buildings. Other contraptions included the Bed Moat, which "sits beneath furniture legs and traps bugs as they try to climb up or down."
Aren't hotels a much-publicized way to pick up bedbugs?
Yes, which is why attendees staying at the host Hyatt admitted to taking both routine and extreme precautions. "One man put his luggage inside a bedbug-proof bag," reports The Times, "and kept all his clothes on a non-fabric chair throughout his stay, though his initial survey [for the pests] found nothing."
So was this a bedbug game-changer?
Probably not. For now, getting rid of bedbugs remains an expensive proposition, and at the moment, there is "no single, agreed-on answer to the problem." The Daily News quotes Anthony Vasi, director of New York-based Abalon Exterminating, who warns that "people think there's one magic wand, and there isn't."